Pam Fortin, program director, runs a game of Bird Bingo at Brunswick Area Respite Care last year. The nonprofit will open its new Bath location Sept. 9. (Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record, file)

BATH — Bath-Brunswick Respite Care, a United Way nonprofit that provides adult day care programming for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, will open its new location in Bath next month.

Formerly known as Brunswick Area Respite Care, the nonprofit has been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19 restrictions, shuttering all adult care that doubles as respite for caretakers responsible for the around-the-clock care for their loved ones with dementia.

Nancy Herk, executive director of Bath-Brunswick Respite Care, said the organization, often called a “club,” offers activities including crafts, bingo, trivia games, cornhole and bocce, to name a few. Resources such as support groups, community education and one-on-one counseling are available for caretakers as well.

Herk said the nonprofit’s goal is to provide “joyful time for participants and time off for their caregivers.”

“People come here to exercise, socialize and have fun and while the caregivers get time off from the demands of caring for someone so they have time to go to the doctors or the supermarket or get their hair done,” she said.

Last year, the care center served 354 people, according to Herk.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific illness, but describes a person’s loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

In Maine, 29,000 people age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s Disease and 70,000 friends and family members act as caregivers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Those numbers are only expected to rise.

According to study from the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Mainers with Alzheimer’s is expected to rise to 35,000 by 2025.

A separate Alzheimer’s Association study found more than half of all family members and friends providing unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia have been doing so for at least two years.

Just over one-fourth of Alzheimer’s and dementia caretakers have a history of depression, a statistic Herk expects hasn’t improved during the coronavirus pandemic when the respite care center was forced to close, leaving caretakers no opportunity for breaks for months.

“Some people have been living at home and struggling by themselves [during the COVID-19 pandemic],” said Herk. “Caregivers can get very stressed or even physically ill from taking care of someone 24/7.”

According to Dr. Carl DeMars, a palliative care physician with Mid Coast Palliative Care and Mid Coast Hospital’s Senior Director of Ambulatory Care, there’s no scientific evidence that adult day care programs will change the natural progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Still, he recommends it to his patients because of the emotional and social benefits it has for those living with the disease.

“It’s about keeping their minds as active as possible,” said DeMars. “[Adult day care] is about enriching their lives and having joy in the moment.”

DeMars said day care programs also help with caregiver fatigue, which “one of the main concerns I look at when meeting with families.”

“It’s important [for caregivers] to take those breaks and recharge,” he said. “If you want the home situation to last as long as possible, these day care programs are essential.”

This is something Jim Begley of Brunswick found when he began caring for Donna, his wife of 40 years who developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Begley brought his wife to Bath-Brunswick Respite Care three times per week before the center closed in March.

“I love my wife dearly … but having no break is so hard sometimes,” said Begley. “I miss respite terribly. Sometimes when I’d take her there, I’d just sit in the car for a few hours. It’s just a nice break.”

Begley said his wife misses going to the center and “wakes up asking if we’re going.”

“She loves the people there and they love her,” he said. “She doesn’t remember a lot of things, but she has lots of great memories about respite and the things she does there. She misses her friends there, so it’s going to be great to go back.”

Kenneth Wing, president of the organization’s board, said his wife, Sharon, felt the same way about the program and attended five days a week before she eventually moved into an assisted living facility.

When Wing first took his wife, he said he couldn’t be apart from his wife to go to the store for more than 15 minutes before she’d start to panic.

“Our first time there I expected a phone call within an hour,” said Wing. “Instead they called after three hours and said my wife was having so much fun she wanted to stay all day.

“When she went to the club, she was happy. That happiness allowed her to stay home for a lot longer than she would’ve otherwise.”

Sharon Wing died in December.

After being based in Brunswick for 31 years, Herk said she’s looking forward to opening their Bath location to serve people who “families from Phippsburg, Harpswell and Arrowsic who had to drive all the way to Brunswick.”

The center will open its Bath location at 9 Park St. on Sept. 9. The center will only welcome 20 people in the beginning due to COVID-19 regulations and everyone will be required to wear a mask.

Comments are not available on this story.